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A Guide to Gluten and Dairy Free Food

Many people who avoid gluten find that they also need or want to avoid dairy. Perhaps this is you, or perhaps you’re considering this type of lifestyle. This article will go into more about why you might want to avoid both gluten and dairy, and also how to make the process feel a bit less daunting.

What is Gluten?

Before we get into the discussion, let’s review what gluten is and how it can be a problem for some people.

Gluten is a type of protein found in the endosperm of grains. While gluten is most commonly associated with the grains wheat, barley, and rye, the reality is that all grains contain a type of gluten. 

Gluten is found in all types of food and beverages. Most commonly, gluten is found in bread and baked goods. It is the “glue” that holds these items together and gives them a stretchy quality. However, gluten hides in all types of food and supplements, from condiments and sauces to medications and beverages. With the rise of processed foods, gluten is increasingly added to food items that many people consume on a daily basis.

Those with celiac disease need to avoid gluten in order to manage their autoimmune condition and support their gut health and inflammation. However, many others may want to go gluten free, such as those with non celiac gluten sensitivity or those with other autoimmune disease or gastrointestinal conditions. As gluten is inherently inflammatory and difficult to digest, many find that their gut health and overall health improves when they remove gluten from their diets. This article discusses some symptoms that might indicate that a gluten free diet is right for you.

What is Dairy?

The term dairy refers to the milk produced by mammals. Most commonly, dairy refers to products made with cow’s milk. However, dairy may also refer to other types of milk like goat’s milk and sheep’s milk.

In addition to being the most popular, cow’s milk is also the most allergenic type of milk. However, what most people don’t know is that there are also two different types of cow’s milk. The vast majority of dairy products on the market are made with milk from cows that produce A1 dairy. But there is another type of dairy, A2 dairy, that may be a better option for those who struggle to digest A1 dairy. The terms A1 and A2 refer to different forms of beta-casein, a part of the curds (i.e., milk solids) that make up about 30% of the protein content in milk.

While it may seem like A2 is a newer type of milk, the reality is that when we look back many years ago, all cow’s milk contained A2 beta-casein protein. This is the same primary protein as is in human milk, so we know that our bodies were designed to digest it. So what changed? Over time, there was a genetic mutation in cows in European dairy herds and an A1 beta-casein variation resulted in cows with two types of proteins – A1 and A2. Eventually, A1 beta-casein became the dominant form of dairy in the United States, but unfortunately, A1 dairy can be difficult for humans to digest.

Dairy is found in a number of common products, including milk, cream, yogurt, kefir, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, ice cream, and butter. In most cases, these products use A1 dairy, but A2 options are starting to emerge. Alexandre Family Farm is one company that raises A2 dairy and produces a number of different products.

Still, those with celiac disease may react to dairy for several reasons as we cover in detail in this article and this article and summarize below:

  1. Lactose intolerance
  2. Dairy allergy
  3. Casein protein reaction (casein mimics gluten)
  4. Leaky gut
  5. Digestive enzyme insufficiency (Many with gluten induced intestinal damage do not produce the enzyme lactase in high enough quantities to digest dairy effectively)
  6. Reaction to the beta casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) protein which has been linked to a number of digestive disturbances
  7. Reaction to the microbial transglutaminase (also known as meat glue) being used to treat the dairy (mimics gluten)

How to Start Your Gluten and Dairy Free Diet

Removing gluten and dairy from your diet can feel overwhelming, but we at Gluten Free Society are here to be a resource for you as you get through these changes that can provide a huge benefit to your health. Here are a few tips to help you ease into the process.

  • Understand ingredient labels: Learn to read and identify the ingredients that may have gluten or dairy, even those with hidden sources in the ingredients you may not be as familiar with (see our list below). Some products list a certified gluten free logo that provides some assurance that the product was tested to ensure it is gluten free.
  • Research brands: Even brands that are marketed as gluten or dairy free may not be 100% of the time. Cross-contamination is a serious problem that is often ignored. If you are uncertain as to how a product is made or packaged, call or email the company to learn more.
  • Understand there are way more foods you can eat than foods you can’t: Gluten and dairy free diets are often perceived as being depriving or difficult. But the truth is, most healthy whole foods are naturally gluten and dairy free. Experiment with flavorful herbs and spices to add excitement to your meals.
  • Clear your kitchen of gluten and dairy: Do an inventory of your kitchen and rid your home of any foods with gluten or dairy so that you don’t eat anything by accident or feel tempted to finish something that you started.

You probably know to look for terms like milk, cream, butter, yogurt, or cheese, but dairy may also show up in the following sneaky ways on a food label:

  • Casein (or anything with Casein or Caseinate in the name, like Calcium Caseinate, Hydrolyzed Casein, etc.)
  • Lactalbumin
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lactose
  • Lactulose
  • Nougat
  • Whey (or anything with whey in the name, like Whey Protein Hydrolysate)

Some Delicious Recipes for Gluten and Dairy Free Foods


A gluten free and dairy free diet can be supportive for many of us who are working to heal gut health and optimize overall health. While it might sound daunting, there are tons of healthy whole foods that are naturally free from gluten and dairy. As always, just be sure to read labels carefully and advocate for your health by asking questions. Gluten Free Society is here to support you!

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